Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Big League Moment Angels Pitcher Hector Santiago Interview

For the 2014 off season the Angels participated in a 3-team trade to try to solve the rotation problems of the previous season. Slugger Mark Trumbo was dealt and in return the Halo's received two young arms Tyler Skaggs, a former Angel prospect, and Hector Santiago. Santiago is developing into a reliable arm in the rotation, building up a solid innings count with a very good K/9 ratio supporting his 3.56 ERA. While many writers are focusing on the potential of Skaggs, Santiago's arm has the potential to be the key bridge in the rotation for Halos this season and farther down the line.

Santiago was kind enough to do an interview and answer a few questions for me about his MLB career.

First off, new member of the Angels. How did you find out about the trade? Who broke the news to you about it?
"Rick Hahn, GM of White Sox called me."

How did you find out you were being called up to the Majors with the White Sox in 2011?
"My Double A manager called me early Sunday morning and asked if I could pitch for the Sox at night."

After your call up did any player go out of their way to show you the day to day of being a big leaguer and help mentor you?
"No not really I kept to myself and just went about my business."

Pitching coach Don Cooper, what was his biggest piece of advice to you as a young pitcher? 
"He always said focus and fastball command two big things pitchers need to have success."

You're a fan favorite in Chicago and likely one in the Anaheim being so twitter active. What's the biggest thing fans can do to show you support?
"Fans show their support all the time through twitter but actually showing up to games and cheering us on in good and bad times gives us confidence and trust in the fans. We love when we talk out and see our teams colors and logos all over the place. "

The White Sox are a popular franchise, how do you feel about autograph seekers? Do you mind it? Anything you especially enjoy signing?
"I don't mind signing anything or anytime but I hope that fans understand that we are at work and we can't always stop and sign. But I try to sign as much as I can! And I like signing team baseballs the most because it shows your team fan! But sweet spot is pretty cool!

This team is gonna be great. I see some MVP type seasons ahead and hopefully a Cy Young! Don't forget about Rookie of the Year!"

It was great of Hector Santiago to do spend some of his offseason doing this interview and I'm looking forward to him becoming an anchor in the Angels rotation for years to come. If you don't follow him on twitter you should follow the fan friendly pitcher's twitter @HecSantiago53

Saturday, December 21, 2013

Big League Moment Grant Green Interview

While at the Brandon Barnes Wiffleball event I used some time to interview Angels' infielder Grant Green. Grant was extremely personable and a pleasure to do an extended interview with, that gave a great glimpse into his time so far as a Major Leaguer.

First question. How did you find out you were being called up the majors?
I was actually in AAA Fresno. My manager was the same high school I went to, I start to get dressed for the game, he was like "Hey grant don't get dressed yet." so I'm just sitting in the visiting clubhouse wondering what's going on. I go into his office and go so whats the deal, " He tells me you're getting called up you're getting on a plane tonight you're going to Pittsburgh." And I'm like are you kidding? He says he'd never joke about something like that."

When you first get to the clubhouse what did the As have waiting for you?
"I mean they have the jerseys and everything. It's nothing special just jerseys. But the coaches are there waiting congratulate you, say hi and what not. To me thats one of the coolest things when you get that first call up how excited everyone is for you. Everyone goes through it, everyones been there before, they're all just so happy."

I know some teams break it up. Did the club house manager give you a number?
"It was my number in spring training so they just kept it over for the season."

So you were traded to the Angels, how did you find out?
"I start to get on the field for a game. Same thing manager says "hey we can't let you play today you're taking the day off." I knew Sogard had been hurt a couple days before so he says hey you're just in a holding pattern right now. We're just going to see what the deal is. So I went up and was lifting in our clubhouse and a couple of pitchers come in and ask what the deal is. I tell them I don't know  yet. Finally one of them says congratulations. For what? You just got traded. I was like…bull…I would have heard something. And he says no it's on twitter. I ended up finding out a little after that when the GM's called."

The stories about Billy Beane...are they true? Is there an organizational idea, hey this is what people think about our organization? Or is it more baseball and less numbers than everyone tries to make it out to?
"There's definitely less numbers. He's not going to reward you for walking 500 times. It's the type of thing where a lot of teams are just starting to looking into now its On Base Percentage. He's really big on that and not to the extent that most people think but he's still into OBP and playing the game the right way. Although its not as bad as everyone says it is, it's still present in the organization."

Did anyone take you in and show you how to be a big leaguer?
"With Oakland I knew a lot of the guys already from Spring Training every year. I knew Trumbo from being around here, Conger's from around here. Kole Calhoun from playing against him. All the guys have been there before so no one treats you any differently. There is a bit of rookie hazing but its all in good fun. everyone was nice and forward with any information I needed."

What was your rookie hazing?
"We wore Speedos with the Angels, but I wasn't there for it with the A's. Usually its in September with the September call ups but I wasn't around for it."

What's your favorite park as a player?
"New Yankee stadium is always nice. But still my favorite the one I had the most fun in, maybe because it was my call up is Pittsburgh. I had a blast. I thought the ballpark was gorgeous, such a beautiful ballpark the city we stayed in was really nice. All around great."

What are your goals as a team or individually?
"As a team it's to win games make the playoffs and hopefully heat up at the right time and win a World Series. Personally same as every year. Get better be more consistent. Wherever the chips fall theres nothing you can control besides working hard and trying to do your best."

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

Big League Moment Brandon Barnes Interview

While I was at the Brandon Barnes 1st Annual Wiffleball Invitational I took the opportunity to talk to Brandon for a few minutes and he was kind enough to do a quick interview. Below is the transcribed conversation.

First off Rockie now, who was the first person to tell you?
"I was actually going to professional athletes outreach in Florida, its a Christian convention. I got off the plane and had a message from my GM. I gave him a call and he told me I was traded."

Are you looking forward to that outfield?
"Yeah definitely I played there once last year. It's a big outfield. I like to run around and go after balls and I'm very excited. It's a hitters park so its even more fun."

How did you find out you were being called up?
"Called in by my AAA manager in 2012. I thought it was to talk about the game. Talked about my attitude and said it had been a little different then he told me he was joking and I was being called to the Majors."

Did you get any rookie hazing by the Astros?
"We had to wear speedos the first year in Chicago. This year I was super woman but I don't remember where it was it's all a blur."

First annual wiffleball tournament. Are you planning another event? Was it easy to work with the organization?
"Not yet I think I'll let some time go first. I've worked with PCRF before so it was pretty simple to start but pulling this all together was pretty tough."

You have items from Vinne Pestano, Mark Trumbo, but Ryan Getzlaf and Corey Perry. How were you able to get everything?
I have a lot of good friends and connections. In the baseball world we all have each others numbers were all pretty close so just reaching out.

Did you think about the cycle?
"No. Until I stepped up and knew I needed a double thats the only time I ever thought about it."

Did you feel it off the end of the bat?
"No. I mean I got it pretty good and it just shot down the right field line."

I know the Astros are pretty young did any veterans take you in?
"Rick Ankiel and Carlos Pena really helped me a lot. "

It was great to take a chance to talk to Brandon Barnes and get to know more about him as a player and a little about how he got involved in working with the Pediatric Cancer Research Fund.

Saturday, December 14, 2013

Recap Brandon Barnes' 1st Annual Barnyard Wiffleball Invitational 12/14/13

Southern California native outfielder Brandon Barnes returned to his roots to put on the 1st Annual Barnyard Wiffleball Invitational at the Anaheim based The Office Sports Academy. The charity event featured a wiffleball tournament, raffle, silent auction, vendor booths and food truck all in support of the  Pediactric Cancer Research Foundation.

The cause is especially close to Barnes' heart as his younger brother had a condition which required treatments from 13 months old through the 8th grade to become cancer free. What was especially nice was the event got large press coverage, making the Astros' official MLB website and some television promotion prior to occurring.

Typically for events like this the promotional coverage doesn't always spread beyond direct sponsors or sites covering athlete appearances. Seeing the cause being discussed on a national scale is a huge success for Brandon Barnes. The event was well run and organized, appearing to be a resounding success raising significant funds through entry fees, raffle tickets and the live auction. Hopefully the event is repeated and further coverage can increase attention to the PCRF for more information about the foundation you can read it here on their site.

I got Brandon Barnes' autograph on this ROMLB and he was nice enough to inscribe the "Cycle 7/19/13" he hit for the Houston Astros. Now that he's moving to the Coors Field I think his offense will continue to shine. Barnes was kind enough to share a few moments to answer a few questions about his career and involvement with the PCRF which you can read here.
Barnes' rallied support from fellow Southern California natives and big leaguers Angels' infielder Grant Green and Oakland A's infielder Daric Barton to donate items and play in the tournament with him.  Barnes is in the far back and Barton is to the right behind the bar.
Also I had Grant Green autograph this 2010 Bowman Platinum prospect card.
Though Daric Barton and former All Star Gregg Jefferies were there I didn't have any cards or photos for them to sign and I declined to drop a ball on them. After getting Green and Barnes' autographs they were kind enough to spend a few minutes being interviewed by me which I will post soon. When the interviews were over I watched some more wiffleball and hung out for the raffle before leaving since former Angels slugger Mark Trumbo was a no show and didn't make an appearance.

It was a nice event and I'm looking forward to seeing the PCRF and Brandon Barnes work together in the future. Hopefully Grant Green makes it a tradition to rock a neon bandana while playing.

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

Man Versus Ball by Jon Hart

Recently I was sent a copy of author Jon Hart's book Man Versus Ball published by Potomac Books in 2013. I had heard of the book in a post by ballhawk Zack Hample and had been curious to give it a read so I was happy to obtain a copy for a review.

What I got when I sat down to read it was not what I had expected. I'd been anticipating blurbs about random sports adventures and what I got was much more. Instead of a series of short stories covering the same sports and the same articles we've all read, I got a chance to essentially sit at a bar rail and listen to one of the more eccentric personalities in New York talk about his meandering through the back alleys of amateur, semi-pro and professional sports. It takes a certain kind of guy to go to mascot school, play roller-basketball and be a concessions vendor in New York City all in one lifetime and Jon Hart is most definitely that guy.

Hart's book captures something every sports fan has had at some point or another, the "I wonder…" moment. Not everyone has the chance to fly across the country to play in the World Cup of roller-soccer or to spend summer afternoons in the stands of Citi Field hawking beer, but Hart took the chance and lets us take a peek at what life on the other side is like. The endless summer we all wish we could've gone wild and knocked off our craziest bucket lists is his reality. It's rarely done, not often talked about but it's all enjoyably accessible in his book.

So do yourself a favor, pull a stool up to the rail, order yourself something tasty to drink, get a copy of Man Versus Ball and enjoy the ride.

Monday, December 2, 2013

Blake Griffin Kia LA Autoshow Appearance 11/30/13

This is one of the graphs that makes me thankful that I live in Southern California due to all the great autograph opportunities. The Los Angeles Autoshow is one of the biggest and most important in the industry so vendors are sure to pull out the stops to try to draw large crowds. Kia for the past few years has leaned on drawing a crowd with its spokesman Clippers star Blake Griffin.

I went to the autoshow extremely early so I could make a full day of the event. I wondered the various booths and checked out the luxury cars before wandering over to the Kia booth. There was a line starting to form so I waited for Alex and Rob to come give me company. When they arrived we hung out and waited patiently for Blake to arrive for the signing scheduled from 4:30-6:30.

As we were waiting we saw the line grow. That's not unexpected to us. Apparently though it was unexpected to Kia as they had a small stack of small 5x7 photos that they were expecting to have Blake sign and hand out. However there were easily 400 people wrapped around the convention center going from the far left of the photo all the way around the Kia booth and wrapped back past the right side of the photo. And everyone was waiting for a chance to meet Blake for an autograph and photo op.
Since they were vastly under prepared for the crowd they made a surprising announcement that they'd allow you to get one item signed. One item that you could provide yourself. That's right. A free Blake Griffin autograph on an item of our choosing, not the standard provided Kia stock photo.

We couldn't believe ourselves and even when Blake showed up we still didn't believe it. Blake doesn't do signings besides the Kia appearance and the past 2 years he's only signed the Kia photo. Well it came down to it and Blake started signing autographs.
And what would you know it was true. The Kia booth was nice enough to have an employee who took a photo for you, and they were nice/smart enough to snap two to make sure it came out. I took my turn saying hello and then was able to my Blake Griffin autographed jersey.
Getting Blake Griffins autograph was awesome enough, but I was able to get him to sit down and knock out a jersey for me instead of a small stock photo. It was a great day running into everyone, checking out some cars and not only meeting Blake but getting him to autograph my jersey.